Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
Planning · Environment · Real Estate

HEP Events Guidance Publications Glossary Awards Contacts

Transportation Planning Update Newsletter

Issue 2, Summer 1999

Featured Article: FHWA Restructuring
What's Happening With Conformity?
Tools for Metropolitan Transportation Evaluation
What's happening with Job Access and Reverse Commute
Considering Environmental Justice and Title VI Requirements in Planning
Alternative Transportation Needs for Parks
Regional Corner: Intermodal Planning Group Meeting in Kansas City
Announcements


Featured Article: FHWA Restructuring

By: Cindy Burbank, Program Manager, Planning & Environment Core Business Unit

In order to continue delivering high quality service to its customers and partners in today's changing environment and into the 21st century, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has undertaken an extensive reorganization in both its field and headquarters organization. The reorganization streamlined FHWA's field organization and enhanced the program delivery role of the FHWA division offices in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. By replacing the 9 FHWA region offices with four Resource Centers (RCs), which are located in Atlanta, Baltimore, Olympia Fields (near Chicago), and San Francisco, a layer of decision making has been eliminated and most program authorities have now been delegated to the divisions which have traditionally worked closely with the state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and other local agencies. The new division office and RC structure will strengthen FHWA's partner/customer service and its commitment to technology delivery.

At the headquarters level, there are five core business units (CBUs) Infrastructure; Planning and Environment (HEP); Operations; Motor Carrier and Highway Safety; and Federal Lands Highways and eight cross-cutting support business units (SBUs) (Policy; Administration; Research, Development, and Technology; Chief Counsel; Civil Rights; Public Affairs; Professional Development; and Corporate Management). The CBUs are aligned with FHWA's strategic plan goals.

The designation of "Planning and Environment" as a core business elevates it organizationally, and reflects heightened activity and emphasis on these two activities by FHWA. Real Estate Services is a key part of this CBU also. Two of HEP's most important partners are the Operations CBU and the RCs. The new Operations CBU, reflects the need for a Federal role in improving the management and operations of the nation's transportation system. The Planning and Environment CBU works closely with and supports the Operations CBU in its important mission through, among other activities, the planning regulations and guidance, research, conferences, workshops, and other events. The technical assistance role of the RCs is crucial to HEP. Demands for planning and environmental technical assistance are strong and increasing. HEP is working with the four RCs to establish them as strong centers of expertise in planning and environment and is already handing off key training courses to the RCs to teach.

There are six offices within HEP: Real Estate Services; Metropolitan Planning and Programs; Statewide and Intermodal Programs; Natural Environment; Human Environment; and NEPA Facilitation. Of particular significance is the creation of the new Office of Human and built Environment to ensure stronger consideration of human and built environment in the planning and project development process. Its responsibilities include the Transportation and Community and System Preservation pilot program, environmental justice, historic preservation, bicycle and pedestrian programs, public participation, and community impactassessment.

As FHWA Administrator Kenneth Wykle stated: "FHWA is undertaking these changes to better serve your organization. Working together, we can achieve our common goal of providing the American public with the finest transportation network in the world and make what's good, even better."

Additional information on FHWA's reorganization can be found on the internet at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/restruct.htm. For more information, please contact Joseph McDuffie, FHWA at 202-366-2601.

Back to the Top

What's Happening with Conformity?

by: Abbe Marner, FTA

As most of you know, FHWA and FTA issued joint guidance to the field offices on June 18th in response to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision on several parts of EPA's conformity rule (EDF vs. EPA, March 2, 1999). The court decision was quite explicit about DOT being prohibited from approving or funding projects after a plan/TIP conformity lapse occurs, stating that the statutory conformity requirements in the CAA cannot be met when the conformity determination for the plan/TIP is no longer valid.

In its simplest terms, DOT's response to the court decision boils down to the following: FHWA and FTA will protect projects from delays due to conformity lapse only when commitments to construction have occurred prior to the lapse. For projects in the design and land acquisition stages, we will halt federal funding for these activities, with certain exceptions, until plan/TIP conformity is reestablished. While the June 18th guidance does not preclude project sponsors from continuing design and acquisition with their own funds, it states that they cannot be reimbursed for any of their expenditures during the lapse.

There have been two lawsuits over the "grandfathering" provision in EPA's conformity rule and it may help to sort them out. The March 2nd appeals court decision involved the Environmental Defense Fund suing EPA over several parts of the conformity rule that EDF felt were in violation of the CAA, notably: (1) grandfathering projects after NEPA is completed, and (2) using emissions budgets in submitted SIPs as the sole test for conformity before EPA had taken any action with respect to the adequacy of the SIP. Besides this one, there was a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and other local organizations specifically on the grandfathering issue in Atlanta. There is a connection between the Atlanta lawsuit and the March 2nd conformity court decision. DOT, along with Georgia DOT and the Atlanta MPO, was a defendant in the Atlanta lawsuit and DOT was interested in pursuing a settlement of the case. While negotiations with the SELC et al. were occurring, the March 2nd decision was rendered. Thus DOT had the opportunity to use a policy emerging in response to the March 2nd decision as a key ingredient in the Atlanta settlement. While the settlement covers other issues, such as the MPO's travel modeling, additional conformity tests that must be used, etc., there is no doubt that the new policy which reduces the number of grandfathered projects in Atlanta played a major role in reaching a settlement. Not coincidentally, the settlement was reached on the same date the joint guidance was issued.

We in headquarters believe that the joint guidance is a workable approach to the conformity court decision. While it does require us to withhold federal funds during the earlier stages of project development, it insulates major projects from delays due to lapse once these projectsreach the point of construction approval, and this is when the consequences of delays would be most serious. Frankly, in the discussions we have had with stakeholder groups, we've suggested that they read the court opinion to see for themselves just how much flexibility was available.

The June 18th guidance gives our field offices a policy and procedures for dealing with conformity lapse in the near term. The conformity rule has to be revised to 'conform' to the court decision and this, of course, requires full notice and comment. While we expect EPA to propose rule language that is consistent with the June 18th guidance, there is no telling at this point what the final rule would say. The controversy surrounding "grandfathering" was recently highlighted at a Senate hearing on the conformity court decision. Senator Bond (MO) has proposed a bare-bones bill that would simply amend the CAA by codifying all of the conformity rule provisions that were overturned by the court. The bill was discussed at length in the hearing and it has the support of several infrastructure interest groups (AASHTO, AGC, ARTBA, HUA), as well as NARC. EDF testified against it, characterizing the situation that unfolded in Atlanta as a conformity 'success story.' We'll continue to bring you conformity coverage as significant events occur. For more information, please contact Abbe Marner, FTA at 202-366-4317.

Back to the Top

Tools for Metropolitan Transportation Evaluation

by: Patrick DeCorla-Souza, FHWA

Post-ISTEA flexibility in use of federal funds and emphasis on social, economic and environmental objectives has increased the need for evaluation tools to supplement demand estimation tools. US DOT has recently developed several such tools to help planners estimate performance measures to assess travel mode, congestion, air quality, equity and safety impacts, and to compare investments in alternative modes. This article summarizes the purpose, inputs and outputs of each tool, and how you may obtain them.

Tools for ITS Evaluation: SCRITS (SCReening for ITS) is a screening-level spreadsheet analysis tool for estimating the user benefits of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) strategies at the corridor/subarea or system level. Each individual ITS application requires several items of user input characterizing the application. The primary measures of effectiveness include changes in vehicle hours of travel (VHT), vehicle miles of travel (VMT), emissions (CO, NOx, HC), vehicle operating costs, energy consumption, accidents, and economic benefit.

The ITS Deployment Analysis System (IDAS), like SCRITS, calculates the relative costs and benefits of potential ITS investments either at the corridor/subarea level or the system (regional network) level. The difference is that IDAS incorporates more detailed analysis of costs and benefits, and even includes a travel demand model to account for effects notestimated by conventional four-step models. Inputs, as in SCRITS, are ITS application characteristics and the outputs from four-step models -- trip tables and loaded highway networks. IDAS is currently being beta-tested by four MPOs and will be released in December 1999. For additional information, please see the IDAS website at www-cta.ornl.gov/cta/research/idas/index.htm, or contact Gene McHale at (202) 493-3275 or gene.mchale@dot.gov.

The "Process for Regional Understanding and Evaluation of Integrated ITS Networks" (PRUEVIIN) is a methodology to assess the impacts of corridor-level ITS improvements on corridor operations and regional travel patterns. This methodology combines the use of currently available four-step travel demand models and simulation models, and examines ITS impacts in a more detailed way than IDAS. PRUEVIIN was applied in the Seattle area to estimate ITS impacts and costs at the level required for a Major Investment Study (MIS) effort. For additional information, contact Karl Wunderlich at (202) 488-5707 or kwunderl@mitretek.org.

Tools for Rail and Highway-Rail Crossing Evaluation: RailDec 2.0 forecasts transportation and non-transportation effects of rail and rail-related intermodal projects for strategic planning and budgeting. Users provide a range of input estimates such as demand which reflect uncertainty in market operating characteristics. RailDec 2.0 estimates savings in costs for shipping, accidents, travel time, emissions, vehicle operation, highway maintenance, and train delay. Outputs are benefit-cost estimates such as B/C ratio, and financial results such as operating revenues and expenses. RailDec 2.0 is available from the Federal Railroad Administration's web site at: http://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0001. Contact Karen McClure at: 202-493-6417, e-mail: karen.mcclure@fra.dot.gov.

GradeDec 2000 is a tool for benefit-cost evaluation of highway-rail grade crossing improvements at the corridor level. Inputs are data on rail conditions, highway conditions, and life-cycle costs of the improvement. The tool explicitly reports the results for each grade crossing and each benefit category (safety, time savings, vehicle operating costs, reduced emissions, network and local benefits), and the present value of benefits and costs are compared. GradeDec 2000 is available from the Federal Railroad Administration's web site at: www.fra.dot.gov. Contact Karen McClure at: 202-493-6417, e-mail: karen.mcclure@fra.dot.gov.

Tools for Cross-Modal Evaluation: IMPACTS was developed to help screening-level evaluation of multi-modal corridor alternatives, including highway expansion, bus system expansion, light rail transit investment, HOV lanes, conversion of an existing highway facility to a toll facility, employer-based travel demand management, and bicycle lanes. Inputs are travel demand estimates by mode for each alternative and unit costs. The impacts estimated include costs of implementation, induced travel demand, trip time and out-of-pocket cost changes, other highway user costs such as vehicle operation, parking and accident costs, transfer payments due to tolls, fares or parking fees, changes in fuel consumption and changes in emissions. The IMPACTS spreadsheet and user guide is available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/steam (inactive link). Go to the Related Links page.

The "Sketch Planning Analysis Spreadsheet Model" (SPASM) is similar to IMPACTS in purpose, inputs and outputs. The main difference is that it allows improvements made at the same time to more than one mode to be evaluated easily. SPASM and its user guide are also available on the Related Links page at www.fhwa.dot.gov/steam (inactive link).

The "Surface Transportation Efficiency Analysis Model" (STEAM) produces similar outputs as SPASM and IMPACTS, but differs in the following ways; (1) It can be used not only for corridor analysis, but also for system-wide analysis of improvements and policies across the region. (2) It can be used for screening-level as well as detailed analysis; and, (3)travel demand inputs are more detailed -- a loaded regional highway network is a required input, and zone-to-zone trips by mode are needed as input rather than "average" corridor trip lengths (as in IMPACTS and SPASM). STEAM, its user guide and a paper demonstrating its application are available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/steam (inactive link).

Tools for Evaluation of Development Effects: The "Spreadsheet Model for Induced Travel Estimation" (SMITE) is a sketch-planning model which evaluates freeway capacity expansion taking into account travel that may be induced by new development in the corridor. It is useful where MPO travel models have not forecasted the full induced demand effects resulting from new development. Inputs are traffic volumes and capacities on the improved facility and parallel facilities. Outputs are estimates of induced travel, highway speeds, user benefits, external cost changes and net present value of benefits. SMITE and a paper demonstrating its application is available on the Related Links page at www.fhwa.dot.gov/steam (inactive link).

The "Social Cost of Alternative Land Development Scenarios" (SCALDS) model estimates the social cost consequences of combinations of transportation and land use strategies at a sketch-planning level. Inputs are existing and projected housing mix and regional employment by type, regional aggregate travel projections by mode, and average local (or default national) infrastructure capital and operating unit costs. Its outputs are monetary and non-monetary costs associated with urban land development at the metropolitan scale, including costs for transportation, land consumption, water, sewer, schools, air pollution and energy. SCALDS and a short paper and report documenting its procedures and demonstrating its application are available on the Related Links page at www.fhwa.dot.gov/steam (inactive link).

Tools Under Development: In addition to the above tools, FHWA is currently developing the "Benefits Equity Assessment Model" (BEAM) for evaluation of equity impacts of transportation decisions at the system level, and the "Strategic Cost and Revenue Estimation" (SCARE) model for financial analysis at the system level. Beta-testing versions of the tools will be available in December 1999. MPOs interested in beta-testing these new tools should contact Patrick DeCorla-Souza at FHWA by e-mail at patrick.decorla-souza@dot.gov. US DOT is also sponsoring development of the "Transportation, Economic & Land Use System" (TELUS) which tracks and monitors TIP projects and evaluates the economic and land-value impacts of these projects. For more information, contact Louis Pignataro at (973)-596-3363.

For general information on Tools for Metropolitan Transportation Evaluation, please contact Patrick DeCorla-Souza, FHWA at 202-366-4076.

Back to the Top

What's happening with Job Access
and Reverse Commute

by: Ashby Johnson, FTA

FTA Headquarters and Region Offices, staff from OST, and FHWA reviewed the 277 applications received for the Job Access/Reverse Commute Program. There was $75 million available for FY 1999 to be used on worthy projects that bridge transportation gaps for welfare recipients and low-income individuals, and in the case of reverse commute projects, provide increased mobility to all segments of the public at large. Of the $75 million available,just over $69 million was awarded in 177 grants to transit operators, State DOTs, tribal groups, MPOs, and faith-based organizations. There were a number of noteworthy strengths and weaknesses in the applications. Specifically, the general strengths were:

In general, many of the applications lacked information in the following areas:

FTA is currently in the process of preparing for the next round of grants and hopes to have a notice issued in the near future. Overall, the Job Access and Reverse Commute Program was a resounding success for the first year and FTA has every expectation that interest in the program will continue to increase. For further information, please contact Ashby Johnson at 202-366-1637.

Back to the Top

Considering Environmental Justice and Title VI
Requirements in Planning

by: Susan Grosser, FTA

Transportation equity considerations, as they relate to both Title VI planning issues and Environmental Justice (EJ) project concerns, increasingly are topics of concern in planning. There is growing awareness that decisions made in planning, set the context for distribution of benefits and impacts. Consideration of service equity issues at this planning stage can be an effective means of preventing problems, as well as addressing and resolving issues before they surface in project development. Discussions are being held in Atlanta, as an outgrowth to a court case settlement on conducting a transportation equity assessment. The proposed assessment would consist of two phases. The first phase would be conducted while the Atlanta Regional Council (ARC), the metropolitan planning organization for Atlanta completes revisions of its long- range plan, due in March 2000.

Efforts are underway to prepare guidance in the importance of considering this topic in planning, as well as other alternative approaches for doing so. For further information, please contact Susan Grosser at 202-366-1828.

Back to the Top

Alternative Transportation Needs for Parks

by: Harriett Dietz

Section 3039 of TEA-21 directs the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Interior, to undertake a comprehensive study of alternative transportation needs in national parks and other public lands managed by the following agencies:

The study will include potential alternative transportation strategies, including mass transit systems, for several BLM, NPS, and FWS sites. The strategies will be developed to both protect the sites' cultural, natural and historical resources and to improve the quality of visits to the sites. These strategies will be used to develop short and long-term needs for Alternative Transportation Systems (ATS) in the Parks and Public Lands and may lead to a FTA Transit in the Parks Program similar to FHWA's Federal Lands Highway (FLH) program. The twelve-month study will also include an inventory of mass transit vehicles that may be suitable for use on Federally-owned lands, a description of potential funding opportunities for the implementation of mass transit systems on Federally-owned lands, and the formulation of potential agency-wide transit programs for the BLM, NPS and FWS.

Potential transit strategies will be evaluated for a total of 162 NPS sites, 23 FWS sites and 13 BLM sites for possible inclusion in agency-wide transit programs. A consultant team began visits to NPS, FWS and BLM sites in June. The team will visit a total of 80 NPS, FWS and BLM sites and will coordinate with Federal, state and local officials to gather information on alternative transportation strategies. Data gathered during site visits will be extrapolated to the remaining sites.

For additional information, please contact Harriett Dietz, FTA, at (202) 366-1627 or Paul Schneider at (202) 366-6799.

Back to the Top

REGIONAL CORNER

Intermodal Planning Group Meeting
in Kansas City

by: Debbie Burns, FTA

Intermodal Planning Group (IPG) Meetings are intended to provide a forum for Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), transit operators and Federal agencies to discuss various planning issues.

On July 1, an IPG meeting was held in Kansas City that included representatives from FTA Region VII, FHWA Resource Centers and Division Offices, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), EPA, FAA, NHTSA, and FRA. The information for this article was obtained from the minutes of the meeting.

Some of the key issues addressed include:

These meetings provide a forum for planning professionals to come to the table and discuss planning issues. They provide information sharing and provide an opportunity to exchange ideas and resolve problems and concerns. For further information regarding IPG Meetings in FTA's Region VII, please contact Joni Roeseler, (816) 523-0204.

We welcome future reports in this newsletter from the IPG meetings and regional conferences from other areas. For more general information, please contact Deborah Burns at (301) 476-4898.

Back to the Top

Announcements

New Chief, Innovation Division

After an absence of 12 years, we welcome James Ryan back to FTA in the Office of Planning. Jim returns as the Chief of the Innovation Division, TPL-21, Office of Planning Innovation and Analysis. His primary responsibilities will be managing planning research and new initiatives in the areas of travel demand forecasting, environmental analysis, and financial planning lending his expertise to both the mainstream metropolitan and statewide planning programs and the major capital investment program. We are fortunate to have Jim return to FTA with the wealth of experience he gained while in the private sector.

Before leaving UMTA in the 80's, Jim co-authored the guidance produced for Alternatives Analysis studies. When Major Investment Studies replaced AA studies, he was the primary contributor to the Department's guidance for MISs, the Major Investment Study Desk Reference, and developed and taught NTI's MIS course. While with UMTA he was the primary contributor to the criteria then required for New Starts evaluation, cost per new trip and consumer surplus, and was responsible for oversight of all the technical components of AA studies. As a consultant after leaving UMTA, Jim has estimated and applied travel models in numerous cities throughout the country. He is one of the leading innovators in new approaches to travel forecasting and was project manager for the new travel forecasting model funded under the Travel Model Improvement Program (TMIP). He has served as project manager for the MISs in the Dulles Corridor and in Kansas City.

Next Planning Newsletter Issue

The next planning Newsletter will be issued in October, 1999. Possible articles for the upcoming fall issue includes:

We welcome your suggestions and contributions for additional articles. Please send all articles and ideas for the upcoming Fall publication of the Planning Newsletter to: Paul Branch,FTA/TPL-12, paul.branch@fta.dot.gov or Joesph McDuffie, FHWA/HEP, joseph.mcduffie@dot.gov.

Upcoming NTI, NHI Training Opportunities

Provided below is a partial listing of National Transit Institute (NTI) and National Highway Institute (NHI) courses.

NTI

NHI

ITS Training Opportunities

A series of ITS seminars and workshops scheduled at several locations around the country are being conducted as part of the Professional Capacity Building (PCB) program. These sessions are intended to increase the knowledge of local FTA and FHWA field staff, state DOTs, MPOs, transit operators and other interested organizations about ITS technology and planning issues.

The current schedule includes the following sessions:

Back to the Top

Updated: 08/28/2014
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000